Dorchester District 2 seeking funds from county to cover some of $7.8 million budget shortfall

Dorchester County News

Dorchester School District 2 presented its budget for the upcoming year to Dorchester County Council on Monday night with hopes that it will cover some of its $7.8 million budget deficit.

Teachers, administrators and staff packed Summerville County Council Chambers while the district’s budget was presented.

Chief Financial Officer Allyson Duke told council members about the critical needs for the district which include:

1. Hiring 20 more teachers to maintain class sizes

2. Funding to increase the minimum teacher salary in DD2 to $40,000

3. More funding to expand mental health programs in schools

4. Eliminating a 10 percent retiree deduction

5. Funding for an additional school resource officer

6. Paying for the increase in cost of its county SRO contract

7. Increasing salaries for staff

Duke said it has been difficult for the district to compete with the compensation that neighboring districts can offer.

“There is such a severe teacher shortage,” said Duke. “They’re not coming out of the colleges so all of the districts are competing for a smaller number of teachers.”

District officials say county council is the last place they can go to get more funding for the 2019-2020 school year.

Councilman David Chinnis said he will vote for a mileage increase for the district.

“I will approve some level of millage increase based on those critical needs,” he said. “I just have to determine what are the critical needs and again all I’m doing is approving the millage increase. They’re going to determine where they put it.”

But county council is limited in what it can offer the school district – up to 22.9 mils, which is just under $6 million dollars. So after the school board knows how much the district could be receiving from the county, it will have to go back and pick which of its critical needs it will fund.

Dorchester County Council has given DD2 a millage increase 5 times in the last 12 years. 3 of those increases have been up to the cap allowed. No millage increased was approved for the district last year.

All of the district’s operating expenses are paid for by business property, rental and secondary home owners because of ACT 388 – a state law that exempts owner-occupied homes from paying for school operating expenses. Duke said the law has caused the district to lose out on millions of dollars in revenue.

The school district will not know if they are getting more funding from a tax increase until the county’s budget is finalized. The budget needs to be passed by council by July 1.

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